Guest blogger – Tom Waterton-Smith
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is not fit for purpose:
The UNRWA states its aim is to “provide relief and human development services to the people of Gaza”. But behind this façade of credibility, the organisation represents a serious threat to the people of Israel and Gaza alike.
At the heart of the issue is the fact that the UNRWA predominantly employs staff drawn from areas of Gaza, including refugee camps, where the population (whether by indoctrination or free will) is overwhelmingly supportive of Hamas. To put it simply, the UNRWA employs a significant proportion of individuals who support the aims of a terrorist organisation. Although some Palestinians live reluctantly under Hamas dictatorship, a proportion of those employed by the UNRWA are known to be members of armed gangs and anti-Israel political groups. What is most alarming, from a British perspective, is that the UK provides funds to the UNRWA – with £18.7 million of our tax payers’ money being placed in the hands of these terrorist sympathisers in 2022.
Although the UNRWA provides rations and other welfare to those in evident need of support, it also has a history of prolonging the dependence of beneficiaries rather than providing them with tools to become self-sufficient. It is in the interest of the organisation to perpetuate dependency to retain their own raison d’être. Former senior staff members, such as James G. Lindsay, a lawyer who worked for the UNRWA, have gone so far as to say that the organisation has a policy of ensuring that the lives of Palestinians remain “abnormal”, thus “enabling radical political activity and maintaining chaos”.
Indeed, agency teachers have allowed prominent Hamas leaders to speak in schools and influence the education of Gazan children. It is Hamas’s ambition to indoctrinate a new generation to hate Israel and continue their holy war. Posters glorifying Hamas suicide bombers as ‘martyrs’ have been displayed in schools, with teachers afraid to remove them for fear of retribution. Furthermore, the UNRWA has a history of allowing staff to participate in political activities – often those supporting the stated ambition of Hamas to eliminate Israel (“The creation of an Islamic state in Palestine, in place of Israel and the Palestinian Territories”). This is actively contrary to UN policy. Unlike the UK, US and EU, the UNRWA refuses to acknowledge the war crimes committed by Hamas, including the atrocities of the 7th October 2023.
This white-washing of the moral discourse is clearly dangerous. The UNRWA, unlike the majority of the free, democratic West and indeed the British Government, fails to recognise Israel’s objectives as defensive, instead propagating the idea that Israel attacks innocent civilians. In reality, the scale of civilian casualties in Gaza comes from Hamas’s policy of hiding amongst them and preventing safe evacuation, even after Israel has provided fair warning of an intended attack on a military target. The UNRWA even states that the West’s refusal to fund Hamas is “undemocratic”. Clearly, this organisation fails to accept the reality of a terrorist group embedded within the general population of Gaza, that glorifies death and encourages acts of gross inhumanity.
A large majority of Israeli people want to live in peace and would welcome a negotiation that leads to a two-state solution. However, this will remain a pipe-dream so long as Hamas continues in power, as its stated agenda is to destroy Israel and eradicate Jews from the entire region. The UNRWA advocates the ‘repatriation’ of Gazans to Israel, rather than to a Palestinian State, which could be formed in other areas including the West Bank. This presents a huge risk to Israel, considering that a large portion of the refugee community is indoctrinated to hate Israelis and, more specifically, Jewish people.
I believe that the UNRWA should be trying to integrate the people of Gaza into the wider economy of the Middle East and work towards the cessation of UN assistance by promoting self-sufficiency and encouraging refugees to take responsibility for their own futures.
Unless the UNRWA addresses the concerns outlined here, the UK should cease to provide funds to an organisation that threatens the lives and welfare of both Gazans and Israelis, and the prospect of peace in the Middle East.